Core Aspects of Health & Wellbeing | ENVIRONMENT

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In continuation of our series that we launched back in January regarding the Four Aspects of Health & Wellbeing, we find it fitting that this week's focus is ENVIRONMENT: the sacred space that we create around us. Most importantly, the air that we breathe in limiting our exposure to toxicity in order to create a sanctuary that feels nurturing and inviting to return home to every day. 

One simple and effective way to support wellbeing within our ENVIRONMENT is to fill our space with living, breathing plants that purify the quality of air that we're exposed to (and, of course, to spend more time outside in NATURE). We tapped Melissa of Gather Home and Garden, a carefully curated retail space in the heart of Church Hill here in Richmond, Virginia, to share her knowledge and thoughts on the benefits of incorporating plants into your personal home space and what that does to support a healthy environment.

"There are obvious direct benefits, such as having increased oxygen in your environment and a living filter to extract pollutants from your home. Plants provide increased / balanced humidity, which helps to inhibit the flu and other ailments. After researching the benefits that plants have on air quality, NASA recommends one potted plant (of medium size) for every 100 square feet of an interior. 

I’m a little more fascinated with some of the more abstract benefits that scientists are still pondering. Studies show that patients recovering from surgeries actually recover more quickly if they are surrounded by plants. There are even programs to implement “horticultural therapy” where patients interact and care for plants, and they show dramatically reduced recovery time from surgery and illness. I don’t think this is because their face is hovering over an oxygen producer (although that obviously is a good thing), but rather it goes much deeper. I personally believe that our evolution has taken us so far away from our beginnings as organisms, and that we have escaped the truth that there is a physiological response to our true home...NATURE. 

When we perform the act of caring for a living thing (more specifically, a living thing that has the quiet beauty and mystery that a plant has...as opposed to say, a cat or dog) that is non-imposing and beautiful in its natural design, it grants us a moment where we can slow down to look with our eyes and analyze, focus, concentrate, touch...MEDITATE! 

So for people who think meditation is sitting still with their eyes closed (and therefore not something they can imagine themselves doing), then PLANT CARE is a perfect way to practice meditation where you are tuning everything about your living green thing IN...rather than a meditation that some people may incorrectly define as tuning everything OUT. Your eyes, mind and thoughts exist only with you and your plant and everything else falls quiet, because you are able to get lost in the nooks and crannies of your plant. 

So really, plant care can be its own form of meditation, and because you are meditating on a living thing, you also gain the mental and physical benefits of nurturing. That sense of purpose, of supporting a life form, has also scientifically been shown to increase age expectancy and wellbeing of the elderly by keeping them from being idle and giving them a purposeful connection at a time in their lives when they may have lost many connections."

And with plant care, just like anything else that requires our tending loving care, it may come with its challenges and frustrations in an effort to keep our plants happy. Melissa explains that her personal challenge in helping people adopt and care for plants is the expectation that it will function as a “perfect piece of architecture” because of a photograph that they saw (which will, of course, always be perfect in its polished stillness). So, they are crushed and frustrated when they discover that the plant grows awkwardly as it reaches for more light, or when it loses some leaves and suddenly they think it’s ugly because it didn’t stay still...but rather, it grew! In order to fully embrace the benefits of plant ownership, Melissa believes that you have to be accepting, forgiving, and flexible to this unique life form and what it does. Sometimes, even calling it quits because it didn’t work out. (And goodness, doesn't that apply in more ways than one.)

We're really happy to be a temporary home to several plant varieties from Gather, which Melissa has carefully selected and chosen, before they're taken home to sit on window sills, bedside tables, outdoor patios, kitchen nooks and so on. Below are just a few of our favorites that we're currently housing.

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Lemon Button Fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia) is a kind of Southern sword fern, a wood fern that thrives in shady woodland areas. Growing to only 12 inches tall, lemon button fern is named for its demure size and rounded leaflets. Also called fishbone fern, these plants thrive in moist, well-drained, acidic soil with a pH of 4 to 7. This adaptable plant tolerates sea air and salty soil.

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Peperomia (Peperomia obtusifolia) is a bushy upright plant that is native to southern Florida and the Caribbean. As a houseplant, it typically grows on thick erect stems to 12” tall. Waxy, elliptic, thick dark green leaves (to 6” long). Small greenish-white flowers on spikes (to 5” long). Flowers are interesting but not particulary showy. Also commonly called blunt-leaved peperomia or baby rubber plant.

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Echeveria is a large genus of succulent plants in the Crassulaceae family, native to semi-desert areas of Central America. Evergreen, they form attractive rosettes of fleshy leaves and often resemble plum-petaled roses, waterlilies or ruffled lettuce. They tolerate heat, full sun, part shade, rocky soils and are drought tolerant. 

Allison Walton